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Alabama is on a path that could end with access to Medical Marijuana. Alabama Representative Mike Ball has filed a Medical Marijuana bill, HB 243 (PDF), that would exempt those from possession charges who have a qualifying medical condition and also possess a valid medical cannabis card. The bill would provide access to Medical Marijuana no sooner than 2021. The bill also is co-sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Mac McCutcheon.

The bill has been given the name the CARE Act and here is everything you need to know about it.

What The Bill Amends

  • Changes marihuana to marijuana. (The real issue here, let’s be honest.)
  • Adds that a person has not committed the crime of unlawful possession of marijuana if the person is in possession of a valid medical cannabis card.
  • Extends Carly’s Law from July 1, 2019 to January 1, 2021.
  • Changes Carly’s Law from covering just seizures to debilitating medical conditions. See below for list of debilitating medical conditions covered.

What The Bill Creates

The bill creates the Compassion, Access, Research, and Expansion Act or CARE Act.

  • The following are considered debilitating medical conditions by the bill and are covered:
    • Addiction
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Amyotropic lateral sclerosis
    • Anxiety
    • Autism
    • Cancer
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Chemo-associated nausea, vomiting, and anorexia
    • Chronic pain
    • Crohn’s disease
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Depression
    • Glaucoma
    • Epilepsy/seizures
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Huntington’s disease
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Muscular dystrophy
    • Osteogenesis Imperfecta
    • Renal failure
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Post-laminectomy syndrome
    • Post traumatic stress syndrome
    • Severe psoriasis
    • Psoriatic arthritis
    • Schizophrenia and other psychoses
    • Sleep disorders
    • Tourette syndrome
    • Traumatic brain injury
    • End-of-life pain management or palliative care
    • Terminal conditions
    • Any additional conditions approved by the 20 commission by rule
  • Creates the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission
    • Enforces all rules of the CARE Act.
    • Comprised of nine members
      • All members shall have experience in health, agriculture, or business.
      • Three members appointed by the Governor
        • One of whom is a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state, certified in the specialty of neurology.
        • One of whom is a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state with a practice that involves pain management.
        • One of whom has professional experience in industrial systems or business.
        • The initial term limits for the above are four, three, and two years, respectively.
      • Three members appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
        • One of whom is a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state, certified in the specialty of oncology.
        • One of whom is a general physician licensed to practice medicine in this state and practices in a rural, underserved community.
        • One of whom has experience in multiple crop development and agricultural practices.
        • The initial term limits for the above are one, four, and three years, respectively.
      • Three members appointed by the Speaker of the 11 House of Representatives.
        • One of whom is a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state, certified in the specialty of psychiatry.
        • One of whom has a background and experience in mental health or substance abuse.
        • One of whom has professional experience in agricultural systems management.
        • The initial term limits shall be two, one, and four years, respectively.
      • A member may not have any interest, financial or otherwise, either direct or indirect, in any dispensary, cultivation, or manufacturer licensed as such in this state. Any current public official, candidate for public office, current public employee, or registered lobbyist may not serve as a member.
      • Members must be at least 30 years of age, citizens of the United States, and residents of this state for at least five continuous years immediately preceding their appointment. The appointing officers shall coordinate their appointments so that diversity of gender, race, and geographical areas is reflective of the makeup of this state.
      • After initial appointments, each member shall serve a term of four years, but may be reappointed for one additional term. If at any time there is a vacancy, a successor member shall be appointed by the respective appointing officer to serve for the remainder of the term. Members may be removed for cause by the Governor.
      • The commission shall elect from the membership one member to serve as chair and one member to serve as vice-chair.
      • While serving on business of the commission, members shall be entitled to a per diem of three hundred dollars ($300) per day, as well as actual travel expenses incurred in the performance of duties as a member, as other state employees are paid, when approved by the chair.
    • The bill covers expectations of the commission in setting up everything needed to provide medical cannabis access to Alabamians.
    • The commission may appoint a director to serve at the pleasure of the commission. The director’s salary shall be fixed by the commission. The director shall be at least 30 years of age and have been a citizen and resident of this state for at least five years prior to appointment. The director shall be licensed to practice law in this state. The director is the chief administrative officer of the commission, and all personnel employed by the commission shall be under the director’s direct supervision. The director is solely responsible to the commission for the administration and enforcement of this chapter and is responsible for the performance of all duties and functions delegated by the commission.
    • The commission may appoint an assistant director who shall perform such duties and functions which may be assigned by the director or the commission. The assistant director, if licensed to practice law in this state, may also be designated by the commission to sit, act, and serve as a hearing officer, and when designated as a hearing officer, the assistant director may perform the same duties and functions as the regular hearing officer.
    • The commission, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Industries, shall appoint a chief inspection and enforcement officer who meets all of the following qualifications and requirements:
      • Be under the immediate supervision of the director.
      • Be at least 30 years of age.
      • Has been a citizen and resident of this state for at least five years prior to appointment.
      • Has experience and training in agricultural inspections.
      • The chief inspection and enforcement officer shall be reimbursed for travel expenses in a manner similar to state employees.
    • A member of the commission and any individual employed by the commission may not have any interest, financial or otherwise, either direct or indirect, in any dispensary, cultivator, or manufacturer licensed under this chapter. In addition, a member or employee of the commission may not have any family member who is employed by any dispensary, cultivator, or manufacturer or who holds any cannabis license in this state. A member or employee of the commission or his or her family member may not have an interest of any kind in any building, fixture, or premises occupied by any person licensed under this chapter; and may not own any stock or have any interest of any kind, direct or indirect, pecuniary or otherwise, by a loan, mortgage, gift, or guarantee of payment of a loan, in any dispensary, cultivator, or manufacturer licensed under this chapter.
      • Family member includes a spouse, child, parent, or sibling, by blood or marriage.
      • A violation is a Class C misdemeanor.
    • Department of Agriculture and Industries works with the Commission to regulate cultivation and processing of cannabis.
  • The CARE Act supersedes state criminal and civil laws pertaining to the acquisition, possession, use, cultivation, manufacturing, processing, research and development, and sale of medical cannabis. The acquisition, possession, use, cultivation, manufacturing, processing, research and development, or sale of medical cannabis in compliance with this chapter, and as approved by the commission, does not constitute a violation.
  • A medical cannabis card may only be issued to a qualified patient or designated caregiver.
  • A qualified patient is a resident of this state who has been diagnosed with a qualifying condition, and who has met the requirements to obtain a medical cannabis card.
  • A designated caregiver is a resident of this state who has agreed to assist with the medical use of cannabis of another individual with a medical cannabis card.
  • A person must be an Alabama Resident and 19 years or older to obtain a medical cannabis card. If under 19 only a caregiver may purchase or administer cannabis to a patient.
  • A designated caregiver must be 19 years of age or older, a resident of this state, have no ownership interest in or contract or employment relationship with a licensed dispensary, and either be designated by a qualified patient as the caregiver or be the parent or legal guardian of a minor diagnosed with a qualifying condition.
  • A designated caregiver may not use cannabis without also being a qualified patient.
  • The State of Alabama will recognize other states medical cannabis cards.
  • Medical cannabis cards can be given out by:
    • A physician licensed to practice medicine in this state.
    • A physician assistant licensed in this state.
    • A certified nurse practitioner licensed in this 3 state.
  • Anyone approved to give our medical cannabis cards must complete a 2 hour course on the contents of the CARE Act. This must happen at least annually.
  • A medical cannabis card application fee is $65.
    • It must be renewed
  • Anyone involved in cultivation, processing, transportation, manufacturing, packaging, and dispensing and selling of medical cannabis must apply for a license and pass a FBI Level 2 background check.

What The Bill Doesn’t Do

  • Require an insurer, organization for managed care, health benefit plan, or any person or entity who provides coverage for a medical or health care service to pay for or reimburse a person for costs associated with the medical use of cannabis.
  • Require any employer to allow the medical use of cannabis in the workplace or to modify the job or working conditions of an individual who engages in the medical use of cannabis that are based upon the reasonable business purposes of the employer.
  • Limit the ability of an employer to establish, continue, or enforce a drug-free workplace program or policy.

We will continue to update this article as the bill goes through the legislative process.